Hypnotherapy: The forgotten treatment option for infertility
Anne Watkins, BSc, Cert. Ed. (Dist), D.Hyp (Dist), MBSCH
Back in the days when I was a Midwife working in a busy Maternity Unit, I would quite often come across an expectant mother in the Ante Natal Clinic holding a new-born baby in her arms. If you stop to think about it, that is at best unlikely and often physiologically impossible. More often than not the explanation was that the newly expectant mother had suffered years of infertility, given up hope of ever getting pregnant and had adopted a baby, only to find that she was finally pregnant.
What is really amazing about stories like this is that once the stress of ‘not conceiving’ is released the pathway to conception is often miraculously cleared.
Of course, the majority of infertility cases can be attributed to physical causes such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, low sperm count in the man, or physical abnormalities in the reproductive tract of either partner. But that still leaves about 25 % of infertility cases in the UK categorised as unexplained infertility, and this is where hypnosis can prove so valuable.
Stress inhibits fertility.
Currently, in the UK approximately one in seven couples have difficulty conceiving which equates to about 3.5 million people seeking help to start or grow their family. In part, this is due to age-related infertility as many couples are now leaving thoughts of starting a family until they are in their 30’s when their natural fertility is already starting to decline.
Age-related infertility aside, there is a wealth of good quality research available supporting the fact that unhealthy levels of stress can damage a couple’s natural fertility. High levels of stress can easily suppress essential reproductive hormones, which in turn can reduce egg quality, delay the release of eggs, or inhibit the implantation of an egg once it is fertilised. All of which reduces a couple's chances of successful conception and a healthy pregnancy.
Hypnosis alleviates stress
Within the field of mind-body medicine as a whole, there is a wealth of high-quality research proving that unhealthy levels of stress can impair a wide range of natural body functions. Yet when the stress is relieved, so too, on the whole, is the disturbance and health is restored. This is certainly true in the field of fertility. If either partner holds deeply stressful thoughts about becoming a parent, feels overwhelmed by pressure from others to get pregnant, or holds traumatic memories of past experiences, then the body responds to these internal messages by suppressing the chances of successful conception.
Fortunately, these stressors be they conscious or unconscious are relatively easy to release with hypnosis.
Every couple’s story of infertility is different and unique to them. There is no one size fits all solution. But there again, that is the beauty of hypnosis. It gives you a highly flexible and practical way of shifting your mindset and connecting with that deeper and quieter part of your mind that actually holds the answers.
Typical take-home techniques that are helpful for stress release include progressive relaxation exercises, body scan meditations, or spending time in a favourite place or inner sanctuary within the imagination where you can take control of how you feel and unhealthy stress can be effectively cleared. These techniques are all easy to learn and ‘take-away’ to practice at home in between therapist led sessions of deeper work.
Sometimes though the cause of infertility can lie beyond the reach of the conscious mind and be buried more deeply within the subconscious.
For example, let me tell you about the case of a lady with unexplained infertility who came to the clinic recently. She had gone through many years of fertility investigations and failed cycles of IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation). She was desperate to start a family and yet she was also equally clear that she didn’t deserve to get pregnant because of a past life memory of giving her baby away at birth and the guilt of that memory still haunted her in the present. Powerful negative emotions such as this can easily disrupt the ability to conceive naturally.
To the hypnotherapist, releasing deeply held beliefs and negative emotions such as this is relatively easy and incredibly rewarding. Often, as in the case I’ve just described once the subconscious blocks are freed there is nothing standing in the way of conception which often occurs within the next few cycles.
Stress inhibits implantation during in vitro fertilisation
Although most cases I see in the clinic are of unexplained infertility there are many times when embarking on an assisted fertility program such as In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is the best way forward.
Here too, stress has a critical role to play in the success or failure of the treatment program. Recent research suggests that high levels of stress during embryo implantation can cause small contractions of the uterus which can inhibit successful implantation of the fertilised egg.
Fear of needles, high levels of stress in unfamiliar clinical environments, fear of the procedure not working and anxiety about childbirth itself are just a few of the highly charged and stressful emotions that can have a detrimental effect on conception. Yet with a little skilled help and a willingness to practice some simple self-hypnosis exercises, all of these fears can be released and replaced with a focused inner calm giving couples the best chances of success.
To date, research studies are looking very promising in this area but sadly yet more high quality research is needed before hypnosis in fertility care goes mainstream in the NHS.
Hypnosis offers huge benefits for couples trying to conceive.
Clinical hypnosis has huge potential benefits for couples struggling with infertility. It’s not necessarily a quick, one session fix. Commitment is needed and a willingness to practice in-between sessions but the rewards are potentially enormous.
If deeply held unhelpful beliefs are inhibiting your fertility your hypnotherapist can help you to gently release those beliefs, replacing them with a positive mindset that places you in the best possible alignment for a healthy pregnancy.
If an unhealthy work-life balance and chronic stress is the problem your hypnotherapist will teach you how to use self-hypnosis to replace high levels of stress with a sustainable inner calm and a much deeper level of physical relaxation than you have probably known before.
Best of all, once learnt, these skills are yours for life. Then when it comes to navigating the challenges of pregnancy and birth you will already be ahead of the game and empowered to access the most positive state of mind possible whenever you need to.
Anne Watkins, BSc, Cert. Ed. (Dist), D.Hyp (Dist), MBSCH is a Medical Writer, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Hypnotic Fertility Practitioner accredited by The National College of Hypnosis and Psychotherapy.
She is a former Midwife, now specialising in the use of hypnosis in the management of infertility and pre-birth communication. You can read more about her work at www.BeBabyBe.com